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Hard evidence hard to find in frat taunting of ‘Take Back the Night’ march

You may have heard that San Diego State University’s Greek leadership has suspended all frat “socializing” indefinitely and mandated sexual-assault prevention training after a particularly bad week. U-T San Diego reports:

On Friday, a “Take Back the Night” march reportedly was interrupted by fraternity members yelling obscenities, waving sex toys and hurling eggs at the marchers. Saturday night, a woman reported she was sexually assaulted at a party near campus — the seventh such report this semester. Hours later, a 19-year-old woman reported that six men tried to pull her into their car near campus.

That “reportedly” is important, because it appears that in an age where everyone is constantly taking smartphone pics and video, no one is sharing hard evidence of this harassing behavior against nearly three dozen marchers.

Dildo-waving not interesting enough to document

In searching Twitter for various keywords and hashtags, nearly every tweet I found referred back to U-T San Diego, which does not include any photos or video from the march, or another news source relying on U-T San Diego.

A columnist for the Daily Aztec, a former Greek member, made an unattributed claim that “Members of Sigma Phi Epsilon and Delta Sigma Phi yelled crude obscenities and waved sex toys (classy) at the marchers.” That article includes a photo of the marchers, but not their alleged antagonists.

KPBS interviewed one of the organizers:

“I’ve been to about three demonstrations before,” said senior Jordan Busse, who helped organize the march. “This is the first time where I’ve actually felt scared.”

Busse claims men at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house shouted obscenities at them. Later, a group gathered on the balcony at Delta Sigma Phi on Hardy Avenue and waved dildos at the marchers, she said. Drivers on Montezuma Road threw eggs, Busse said.

Again, no photos or videos in that report.

Huffington Post‘s Tyler Kingkade tweeted a statement from the marchers, known as Concerned Students of San Diego State University, that made several specific allegations, each punctuated with the mantra “This is rape culture.”

The statement makes demands of the school in response to the allegations, including shutting down fraternities “until they can be made safe” and adding “disadvantaged (i.e. women, queer folk, people of color) and activist students” to the Sexual Assault Task Force.

They didn’t bother providing any hard evidence, either.

A host of unanswered, and perhaps unasked, questions

We might be able to infer that frat leaders at some point identified the alleged harassers, because Sigma Phi Epsilon and Delta Sigma Phi leaders initially told KPBS last week they were doubtful their members were involved, and now four Greek groups have agreed to a hiatus.

Or maybe they were responding to the alleged off-campus rape and attempted abduction of the young woman. Perhaps the administration told them to clean house or get shut down permanently.

Consider how little information we have: allegations of “sexist insults” and eggs “possibly thrown from passing cars” by frat houses; “men” at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house yelling “obscenities” at marchers; and “men” at Delta Sigma Phi’s house waving dildos.

Were they actual frat members, or visitors? (Sigma Phi Epsilon’s president said “a large portion” of members were at a dance that night.) Were the cars driven by frat members? What exactly were these “obscenities”? How do you wave a dildo?

Perhaps during the course of investigation some hard evidence will actually emerge – boorish frat behavior isn’t exactly an unfamiliar concept – but what we have so far is a lot of allegations that fit a well-defined narrative by a vocal group of activists who want the university to take specific actions.

Activists with an agenda but no cameras

It’s not just SDSU sexual-assault activists: Consider the hacking hoax recently pulled off by University of Chicago students, whose false allegations of racist threats were made in conjunction with demands to incorporate racial and ethnic studies into the general curriculum and punish “racially insensitive actions.”

Specific details in the horrific rape allegations reported out of the University of Virginia are also coming under scrutiny, as The College Fix‘s Jennifer Kabbany notes: Some of the claims, like the use of marijuana in a gang rape and rolling around in glass for three hours, are just fishy.

Activists surely know that when their claims collapse under sustained scrutiny, it makes it all the harder to convince anyone the next time that they aren’t just crying wolf or exaggerating the truth. It does a disservice to actual victims.

For the sake of their credibility at the very least, activists need to catalog their activities in more objective ways than simply sharing narrative-fitting allegations with credulous reporters who are afraid to “trigger” a “survivor” by doing their jobs.

Someone can be deputized to hold a handheld video camera for the duration of the march (take a page from Ferguson protesters), or just pull out their phones when a group of frat boys waves dildos at them.

It should be the first question from journalists when such damning allegations come out: Do you have any hard evidence? That’s basic journalism. If the activists say no, or give a fudgy answer, keep pressing.

The truth is rarely as cut-and-dried as a “rape culture” manifesto lays out.

Greg Piper is an assistant editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.